Paul O’Dette, Co-curator of Guitar Marathon: Bach series talked with the 92nd Street Y about creating the Marathon, Bach’s lasting legacy on the 325th anniversary of his birth, why he chose to include a few non-Bach works, and more. Some highlights follow:
How was the theme for this year’s Guitar Marathon chosen?
In previous Marathons, guitarists performed a wide range of repertoire over many centuries, but this year we wanted to offer diverse interpretations of a very specific repertoire. Co-curator David Spelman proposed the music of Bach, since it plays such an important part in the programming of most classical guitarists and of course lutenists.
How have you selected the artists?
David and I wanted to assemble a group of brilliant instrumentalists who have invested considerable time and thought into the performance of Bach, and whose approaches demonstrate a variety of ways in which his music may be brought to life. Bach is so universal that hearing different interpretations side by side should make for a very interesting and varied day of music-making.
What is it about Bach that brings artists to him again and again?
As with all great art, Bach’s music is multi-layered. It certainly is enjoyable the first time through, but the complexities and depth can only be fully appreciated after repeated probing and exploration. To convey the overall architecture as well as the intricate details is a challenge of which one never grows tired.
You have included a few non-Bach works— Can you tell us why?
We wanted to provide a taste of the lute music Bach listened to and emulated. His admiration for the music of Sylvius Leopold Weiss was such that he borrowed an entire Weiss lute suite. He used the lute solo as an obbligato harpsichord part over which he composed a new violin part. This Violin Sonata, BWV 1025, is not often performed because many players don’t quite know what to make of it. But we’ll perform both in order to compare Weiss’ lute version with Bach’s setting of it, in order to understand exactly how Bach put it together.
What is your personal favorite Bach lute and non-lute work?
The Fugue from BWV 1001 has been a favorite of mine since childhood, and I still find new things in it each time I play it. I am always deeply moved by the St. John Passion. The dramatic construction and pacing are so tight and the balance of affects so brilliantly judged that it feels like an opera to me. The final chorus, “Ruht wohl,” is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music.
You can read the interview in full here.
Fifteen artists will explore the many facets of Johann Sebastian Bach’s artistry during the 92Y biennial guitar extravaganza, Guitar Marathon: Bach on Sun, Jan 31, with sessions at 2 and 7 pm. Tickets can be purchased here, and those 35 and under can purchase tickets at a discount.
[Guitar Marathon: Bach—Session 1 | Guitar Marathon: Bach—Session 2]
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